Remote diagnostics help reduce rising cost of ownership for mobile devices

The upfront costs of most technology typically is fairly straightforward, and mobile devices are no exception. Typical costs may include deployment, software and hardware, and installation. However, the cost of ownership of ruggedized mobile solutions is not so clear-cut. Many users do not realize they may be shelling out an additional $2,500 to $3,000 per year for maintenance, downtime, and up...

11/01/2009


 

Wavelink has set out to stem the cost of maintaining mobile devices with its remote diagnostic application.

Wavelink has set out to stem the cost of maintaining mobile devices with its remote diagnostic application.

The upfront costs of most technology typically is fairly straightforward, and mobile devices are no exception. Typical costs may include deployment, software and hardware, and installation.

However, the cost of ownership of ruggedized mobile solutions is not so clear-cut. Many users do not realize they may be shelling out an additional $2,500 to $3,000 per year for maintenance, downtime, and updates for their mobile devices.

Wavelink, a provider of mobile device management applications, intends to address this cost issue directly. “The purpose of our system is to help reduce total cost of ownership of mobile devices,” says Jay Chichosz, a company director for Wavelink. Expenses can include troubleshooting malfunctioning devices, completing software updates, setting configurations, and changing security parameters.

Troubleshooting is typically the highest cost because approximately 30 percent of the time there is no problem with the device, says Chichosz. Typical failures include problems with software or hardware, keyboard issues, or wireless networking errors. “If the device fails, technicians can try rebooting it, but if that doesn't work, devices may be sent out to be repaired,” says Chichosz. “But in most cases, service centers find no problems with the device, and it is sent back.”

Chichosz says that not only do companies incur the added cost of shipping devices to service centers, but they also must deal with downtime costs. “Some organizations may have spare devices to use when there are failures, but the costs of spares are higher too.”

Firmware updates can be both costly and complicated, but they can be automatically scheduled with Wavelink's Avalanche system during non-peak hours when few operators would be disturbed. Also, if a device is cold-booted to start it when it fails, all configurations are lost and must be re-installed. “The IT department typically must handle the cold boot since it involves a particular key sequence,” says Chichosz.

Mobile management systems that include remote diagnostics can save companies from undue costly repairs, as well as boost efficiencies. “If an operator is having trouble with a device, the system's dashboard is alerted, allowing users to diagnose problems over the network,” says David Krebs, an analyst for VDC Research, Natick, Mass.

Device downtime can stem from a myriad of issues, ranging from actual hardware failure to application configuration and wireless networking issues. “It's important to ensure that downtime is minimized so that operators' productivity is not significantly compromised,” says Krebs.

Some may assume they can cut costs by implementing non-ruggedized devices at one-fourth the adoption cost of ruggedized ones, but it typically doesn't work out to their advantage, says Krebs. “Companies may think they can easily replace non-ruggedized devices if they fail, but considering the loss of efficiency and other factors, total cost of ownership would end up higher for non-ruggedized devices.”

Being able to manage mobile devices centrally and remotely has been a key driver for 3M, which deploys Wavelink software in more than 20 plants in the U.S. 3M uses Avalanche Mobility Center to manage five to 80 devices in each plant, including devices from multiple vendors.

Avalanche's scan-to-configure feature has allowed 3M to reduce dramatically the time it takes to update devices and configure new ones, says Dean Svela, mobile infrastructure manager for 3M. “Before we implemented Avalanche, each device was manually configured in each location by different operators. We had 50 scanners with 50 different configurations and different local technicians at each site. We had to make sure everything was the same, including font size, screen size, and other settings.”

Today, operators create profiles as barcodes that are then scanned by each device that needs to be configured. Users update settings and security features remotely, pushing down revisions to each device. “It used to take one technician an entire week to find all 30 devices to update encryption keys,” says Svela. “Now, it can be done in 30 minutes.”

Wavelink's central management console gives 3M greater visibility into the mobile devices on the network. Each plant or location can be pulled up, allowing managers to see exactly how many devices are being used and what type they are, as well as the status of the updates.

3M uses Avalanche Mobility Center, which is designed for medium-to-large-sized implementations, while the company's SE version is targeted at less complex organizations that have an easier migration path. The MC version also manages the entire mobile network and infrastructure, including switches and access points.





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